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Dickinson High senior talks logo contest win; educator reflects on career academy model

A look into the career academies at Dickinson High School.

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Dickinson High School senior Jenna Moormann, pictured above, is the winning artist for the academy model logo contest. (Jackie Jahfetson / The Dickinson Press)

After years of planning and a competitive logo design contest, Dickinson High School nears the completion of its first academic year of its academy model for classes.

Following a school vote, DHS senior Jenna Moormann came out on the winning side with her creative take on what the academy model at DHS is and her design is now branded throughout the school’s hallways. Toward the end of the 2020-2021 school year, Moormann submitted her artwork into the logo contest that featured submissions from all across the high school.

The four academies include: Freshman Exploration, Health and Human Services, Business Management and Administration and Engineering and Technical Science.

“It helps prepare students so that they’re more well rounded on what they want to do when they go into college or after college; they sort of have a better understanding of the job that they might want to do or the profession that they want to go into,” Moormann said.

Moormann noted that the logo contest was to make the academies more well known so that educators would have something to reference.

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“I hope that it will help students figure out what they want to do or what job they want to go into because I have absolutely no idea what I want to do when I get out of high school or college, and hopefully this helps them understand,” Moormann added.

Following a staff survey and receiving mostly positive feedback, DHS further launched its step toward an academy model for its classes in early 2019.

“It has been a multi-year process of communicating with all stakeholders, community members, staff and current and future students,” DHS science teacher Elisa Kensinger said.

When the idea of an academy model was introduced, administrators and teachers began brainstorming what they wanted at DHS.

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(Jackie Jahfetson / The Dickinson Press)

“During the early phases of academies discussions, teacher committees did a lot of research of existing schools using the model. We asked local employers how we could best prepare our students for the local workforce. The purpose was simple: how can we help prepare our graduates to be the future employees of our local businesses and industries?” Kensinger said. “The goal is to make sure that the academies are preparing our students to be successful in high demand careers and hopefully helping with the shortage of workers the area is experiencing.”

During the 2020-2021 school year, DHS implemented its first academy to enroll its ninth grade class in — the Freshman Exploration Academy, Kensinger said, adding that the remaining three academies are currently in the first year of application for the 2021-2022 school year.

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“We used the year to prepare the class of 2024 for the full experience of academy model education. Before we can ask students to pick an academy, we needed to communicate the differences among the academies as well as help students figure out what their interests are and how that could translate as a future career path,” she said.

Students are still able to take electives such as band, choir and art. According to a previous Dickinson Press article in 2019, the structure of the class schedules is similar to that of college where students select a major and are required to take courses and recommended electives, but are also able to enroll in classes outside of their major.

“The academy model allows students to pick what main category their interest may be. This really helps in the classroom because it narrows down the varieties of career paths a student might be most interested in,” Kensinger said. “Instead of having a classroom where I might have an aspiring lawyer, carpenter and bookkeeper all at the same time, the classroom roster has that common thread.”

Kensinger continued, “Teachers in the Business Management Academy (BMA) will have students interested in numbers and computers. Teachers in the Health and Human Services (HHS) Academy will have students that enjoy working directly with the public and serving others in need. A class in the Engineering and Technical Sciences (ETS) Academy will have the hands-on tinkerers that show off their creativity and craftsmanship.”

With the academy model, it gives more freedom to educators, Kensinger noted.

“Teachers can customize their content to appeal to those academy specific interests. For example, biology is a required course for all sophomores, but the academy model allows teachers to put an academy specific twist to their lessons. In the ETS, biology could utilize examples and projects that utilize the crafty, hands-on skillsets of those learners. HHS biology can use the human body for models and the BMA could focus more on the graphs, computer simulations and number examples,” she noted. “The benefit for students is a more customized experience in a room full of peers with similar passions.”

According to Kensinger, the academy model is “fairly simple.” All of the freshmen enter into the Freshman Exploration Academy (FEA) where a team of teachers is assigned to that group and they help uncover what students want to explore as potential career ideas. To discover each student’s future calling, educators expose students to all types of careers through collaboration with different local businesses, community career and college fairs and other projects, she added.

Students don’t need to commit to a specific job, moreso decide what their personal preferences are. Most freshman age students know if they prefer working with people, computers and numbers or being hands-on, outdoorsy people. By the end of freshman year, through the various experiences of the FEA, that idea becomes pretty clear,” she said, explaining, “That helps narrow down academy selections. Sophomores then transition into their selected academy where new teams of teachers await. The biggest benefit is that the courses required for graduation as well as associated electives are taught by that same team of teachers for three consecutive years. This means deeper connections between students and teachers and a shared passion for those types of careers. It also means an education that is more specifically geared to that student’s interests.”

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Leading the academy model is Dickinson Public Schools Interim Superintendent Marcus Lewton, who has delegated several individuals to help facilitate and oversee the process, Kensinger said.

For school years to come, Kensinger said that she hopes the career academies will provide DHS students with a “diploma plus,” in which the model allows students to earn their diploma but also creates valuable job skills that can be put into use whichever path they choose after graduation.

“A diploma from an academy model school goes beyond the required reading, writing and arithmetic coursework by laying the foundational skills for high demand, high skill and high wage careers,” she noted.

Though the academy model is still in its beginning stages, Kensinger said it will help students in the long run.

“The academy model is important for the community of Dickinson because when we work together with local employers only positive things will result. When communities work together with schools it is a win-win situation,” Kensinger said. “We can improve the quality of education our graduates receive while preparing them to step into the local workforce with in demand skills the employers are searching for.”

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